Abbas Meeting Meshal in Qatar in Bid to Promote Cease-fire

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Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbasspeaking with Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa in Manama, Bahrain on July 19, 2014. Credit: AFP

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will meet with Hamas political bureau chief Khaled Meshal on Sunday in Qatar in an attempt to get him to accept an Egyptian proposal aimed at  reaching a cease-fire with Israel. Abbas arrived in Bahrain on Saturday after a visit to Turkey.

 Meanwhile, Qatar is proposing an international conference dedicated to the cease-fire efforts and to raising funds for construction in Gaza.

The Egyptians are calling for an immediate cease-fire, after which the details of a long-term truce will be worked out. These would include border crossings, salary payments and the easing of restrictions on Gaza fishermen. A keystone of the Egyptian initiative is the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza, for the first time since the 2007 takeover by Hamas. According to a senior Palestinian official, Egypt told Hamas that any opening of the Rafah crossing would entail the return of Abbas’ presidential guard there, with no Hamas men present. Israel and the PA accepted this proposal, but Hamas rejected it.

The Qatari initiative, supported by Turkey, includes the acceptance of multiple demands made by Hamas, such as a lifting of the naval blockade imposed on Gaza and the construction of a harbor and an airport. A key part of this proposal stipulates Hamas' continued control of Gaza and official recognition of its sovereignty over the Strip. Senior Hamas officials, especially Meshal, welcomed this proposal and refused to negotiate the terms of the Egyptian initiative.

Aides to Abbas explained on Saturday that the trip to Bahrain is part of the Palestinian president's efforts to muster support for the Egyptian proposal from the Gulf States, now that Saudi Arabia has endorsed it, according to a report from the Egyptian presidential palace. Palestinian Intelligence Chief Majed Faraj did not travel to Qatar. He flew from Ankara to Cairo to continue talks with the Egyptians to work on a proposed comprehensive agreement.

According to Palestinian reports, Meshal might ultimately travel to Cairo for further high-level talks, and that Islamic Jihad secretary-general Ramadan Shallah may also join these talks. Abbas' efforts are focused on achieving an immediate ceasefire, while Hamas and Islamic Jihad are seeking an instant return on their consent, primarily in regard to opening the border crossings. Egypt, meanwhile, is insisting on restoring the Presidential Guard force to the Rafah crossing as a condition for it being opened.

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